FLORENCE — Romero Gomez made a much-needed 3-pointer at the buzzer to close out the third quarter, but it wasn’t enough to help Florence catch up in an opening loss at its home tournament Thursday night.
The Buffaloes fell 49-31 to Rogers in the first round of the Florence tournament.
With just four players returning to this season’s varsity roster, the young Buffaloes struggled to keep up with the Lions, who utilized an 18-2 run in the second quarter to take control.
“We need to hustle more,” Gomez said. “We’re a team that if we don’t hustle from the beginning, we’re not going to win the game.”
The Buffaloes trailed 29-7 at halftime, but Payton Wood came out of the break and picked off a Lions’ pass for a fast-break layup that got the offense going.
“Usually we’re a team that comes back much stronger in the second half,” Gomez said. “So, we need to work on working harder in the first half.”
Shots kept spinning out of the rim early, and a missed jump shot from sophomore Jacob Trussell was rebounded and put back by Gomez, pulling Florence into the double digit scoring.
Gomez was pressured into the right corner on the next possession, but he found Trussell waiting under the rim for a right hook that pulled the Buffaloes within 20 points, 35-15.
Florence’s defense helped keep the Lions from pulling further ahead as the Buffaloes produced back-to-back steals from Aric Grimm and Kelby Vaughn.
Despite the effort, Florence found itself trailing by 10 points in the final three minutes of the fourth quarter, and Gomez added another bucket from the outside to cut Rogers’ lead to 45-31 with time dwindling.
“It’s something I have to do for the team,” said Gomez of stepping up late in the game. “Somebody has to do it, so why not me?”
Despite a strong second half, the Buffaloes couldn’t catch up as they were eliminated from the championship bracket of the tournament.
“They are still learning,” Florence head coach Danny Wood said. “Most of them were on the junior varsity last year.”
With the loss, Florence falls into the consolation bracket of the tournament with the Buffaloes’ next game scheduled for today at 3:15 p.m. against Granger.